Draft Norms and Standards for the management of damage-causing animals in South Africa: Department of Environmental Affairs briefing

Committee: Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

Chairperson: Mr M. Johnson (ANC)

Date of Meeting: 14 Feb 2011

Summary

The Department of Environmental Affairs presented the Portfolio Committee with a briefing on draft norms and standards for the management of damage-causing animals in South Africa. The Department elaborated on the problem statement; processes of development of the norms and standards; legislation overview; purpose of the norms and standards; provisions of the norms and standards; and the recommendations. A task team was established in January 2009 to participate in the development of the norms and standards. The task team included representatives from the national and provincial departments responsible for environmental affairs; the national department responsible for agricultural matters; members from the agricultural industry; conservation and animal welfare organizations; and academic institutions.

The 2007 Regulations on Threatened or Protected Species defined a damage-causing animal as an individual of a listed threatened species of which, when interacting with human activities, there was substantial proof that a) it caused losses to stock or to the wild specimens; b) caused excessive damage to cultivated trees, crops, natural flora or other property; c) presented a threat to human life; or d) was present in such numbers that agricultural grazing was materially depleted. A permit was required to capture, control (kill), or relocate damage-causing animals provided that control might not be done by a hunter who was a foreigner. The purpose of the norms and standards was to provide a uniform national approach for the management of damage-causing animals; to assist authorities to develop legislation/policies for the management of damage-causing animals; to provide minimum requirements for the lawful use of methods and equipment to manage damage-causing animals; and to ensure that the methods used were socially and ecologically acceptable. The aim was to target the individual animal causing damage rather than the species.

Members expressed their concerns on Committee members and delegates from the various Departments who did not bother to attend meetings. Members asked what would happen if permits were refused, and asked how a “specific individual” would be identified. Members were aware that it was substantial farmers who suffered from damage-causing animals and at some places there were nothing stopping those animals from moving to rural areas and killing livestock and sometimes human beings. Most Members were in favour of reducing the number of damage-causing animals like baboons and jackals, because such animals affected crops and livestock in all provinces, and threatened food security. Members expressed their concern about the implementation of the norms and standards and the Department's capacity to effectively fulfil this mandate. Many issues in the norms and standards were unclear and their outcome was unknown; it was therefore very difficult for Members to support the legislation.



Minutes

Opening Remarks
The Chairperson expressed his concern at Members who never attended meetings and those who continuously sent their apologies, and asked why only one staff member of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and one from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) were present at the meeting.

Mr D du Toit (DA) said it was shocking to see the lack of commitment from members of the DEA and the DAFF who did not bother to come to Parliamentary meetings.

Ms D Carter (COPE) apologised for the times she did not attend meetings and said that members of the Departments were also not present at the last presentation. She requested for the meeting to be adjourned until such a time when all members from Departments were present.

Mr Du Toit said that the Committee could not put its job on hold because of the absence of members from the Departments and asked the meeting to proceed.

The Chairperson understood the frustration of Ms Carter and said that Departments had to have an opinion on what was presented. There was an agreement that the norms and standards for the management of damage-causing animals in South Africa would not be published during the 2010 December period but the DEA did publish the document despite the agreement.

Mr L Bosman (DA) supported the notion that full delegations from the Departments were needed for the presentation but suggested that the briefing proceed. He requested for this meeting to be treated as an information session, but stated that the Departments had to be present in the next meeting to discuss the different opinions.

The Chairperson agreed that the meeting would proceed.

Draft norms and standards for the management of damage-causing animals in South Africa. Department of Environmental Affairs briefing

Ms Thea Carroll, Director of Regulation and Monitoring Services, Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) briefed Members on draft norms and standards for the management of damage-causing animals in South Africa. She presented the problem statement, process and development of the norms and standards, legislative overview, purpose of the norms and standards, provisions of the norms and standards, and recommendations.

The problem statement was that the majority of the livestock loss involved goats and sheep and was mainly caused by black-backed jackal and caracal. The general extermination of larger predators like lions and brown hyenas had led to an increase in numbers of smaller predators like black-backed jackal and caracal, and there was a lack of uniformed provincial legislation to address the management of damage-causing animals.

A task team was established in January 2009 to participate in the development of the norms and standards. The task team included representatives from the national and provincial departments responsible for environmental affairs; the national department responsible for agricultural matters, members from the agricultural industry; conservation and animal welfare organizations; and academic institutions.

The National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004) (NEMBA) stated that no person may carry out a restricted activity involving a listed threatened or protected species without a permit (Section 57(1)). Killing, hunting and capturing were all restricted activities in terms of NEMBA and the Minister might issue norms and standards for the achievement of any of the objectives of the Act, including for the management and conservation of South Africa’s biological diversity (Section 9).

A permit was not required if a damage-causing animal was killed in self-defence where it threatened human life, but the case had to be reported to the relevant issuing authority within 24 hours of the incident. Permissible methods in terms of the Regulations on Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) regulations included only environmental friendly poison; bait and traps (excluding gin traps); dogs, for flushing or retrieving purposes; suitable firearms; luring by smell or sound; motorized vehicles and aircraft; and flood/spotlights.

The purpose of the norms and standards was to provide a uniform national approach for the management of damage-causing animals; to assist authorities to develop legislation/policies for the management of damage-causing animals; to provide minimum requirements for the lawful use of methods and equipment to manage damage-causing animals; and to ensure that the methods used were socially and ecologically acceptable. The aim was to target the individual animal causing damage rather than the species.

The management activities performed and methods used had to be relevant to the applicable legislation. The implementation of a holistic and integrated approach was to target the specific individual, and the implementation of management interventions to prevent or limit damages. The detrimental affect on species had to be minimal to make the management activities ecologically acceptable while management methods had to be acceptable to society to make them socially acceptable. Stakeholders had to accept the inherited risk of conflict and also apply a combination of non-lethal methods. The Government had to accept that wild vertebrates might have caused damage, and that it played a vital role in the management of damage-causing animals, as well as training and sound scientific advice. The Department would provide incentives for farmers who applied non-lethal methods.

The response of issuing authority to complaints had to be timely and proportionate to severity, accompanied by inspection and reports. The issuing of authority was to propose measures for the management of damage-causing animals with the aim of preventing or mitigating recurring damage. The proposed measures had to be proportionate to damage caused and included live capture, permanent removal or killing. Relocation should occur when there was no scope for resolution. There should be consultation with the landowner and adjacent landowners, and records should be kept. The deterrent methods required no permit and were non-lethal. Those methods included fencing, collars, herding techniques, management practices, repellents and scare tactics. The combination of the above-mentioned methods had proven to be the most effective. A permit was required for methods like trap cages, poison collars, darting, soft traps, dogs, call and shoot.  Only trained personnel could use those methods.

Trap cages should be inspected and approved prior to use, and the cage had to be monitored at least every 24 hours. Animals captured in a cage should not be displayed and kept in a cage for more than 24 hours. Only Compound 1080 was to be used for poison collars in compliance with the Hazardous Substances Act 1973. The device had to be inspected and approved by the issuing authority and the carcass had to be immediately removed, buried or destroyed. Darting was only allowed to be done by a registered veterinarian. Call and shoot had to comply with conditions set by the issuing authority and records of all hunting events had to be submitted. Soft traps had to be inspected and approved by relevant authorities, and comply with minimum requirements. The use of dogs was allowed only for the pursuing of wounded animals or flushing.

The conservation authorities might develop a compensation strategy that would determine the circumstances under which compensation could take place. The norms and standards aimed to provide for a nationally coordinated and uniform approach to the management of damage-causing animals. The norms and standards provided minimum requirements for the methods that required permits in terms of the TOPS regulations. The use of soft traps would not be prohibited, but the use thereof in accordance with the provisions of the norms and standards would be closely monitored. Collaboration with the DAFF was required.

Mr Keith Ramsay, Deputy Director for Livestock Development, DAFF, said that Department was looking at Grootfontein as a prohibited research centre for the country. The Department was also looking at bar-coding and microdot coding to link the traps.

Discussion

Mr Du Toit raised his concern about the “substantial proof” of damage-causing animals as indicated on page 3 of the presentation (see attachment). He asked who issued permits and what happened if the permit was refused. He asked how a “specific individual” would be identified on page 6 of the presentation. He said that there was no specific place that was closed to predators because predators always moved and followed their prey. Predators were therefore not bound to one particular area. He failed to understand the “barbaric” and “cruel” way in which animals killed their prey. Animals killed by biting their prey and he asked the difference between a hyena killing its prey and a dog doing the same if dog hunting was restricted. He asked for the definition of “barbaric” in this context.

Mr N Cebekhulu (IFP) said that it was substantial farmers who suffered greatly from damage-causing animals and in some places there was nothing stopping those animals from moving to rural areas and killing livestock. In some instances, human beings were killed by unknown animals which moved from their protected areas. More should be done to protect people in unprotected and rural areas, and there needed to be a balance between the protection of wildlife and the protection of innocent people.

Ms C Mabuza (ANC) favoured reducing the number of damage-causing animals like baboons and jackals, because these animals affected crops and livestock in all provinces.

Bishop L Tolo (COPE) said that two years ago there were rumours of lions killing the livestock of people who stayed outside the Kruger National Park and asked the Department to do something to compensate those affected people.

Mr Bosman asked the Department to put up a management framework to control damage-causing animals, because large parts of the country were used for farming and had to be protected. He asked what would be done about the serious losses of crops and livestock and wanted solutions while the Department and various stakeholders looked at the problems. He said that huge farm areas were converted into wild game areas and that had a direct correlation in the increase of wild animals. Good management was needed to control wildlife and also to protect farming. He took note of the presentation and the solutions by the DEA but emphasised the balance that needed to be struck.

Ms Carter expressed her concerns about the implementation of incentives and asked what would be done with captured animals. She asked how incentives would be implemented and how they would be budgeted for, because the challenges mentioned had a direct impact on food security.

Ms Carroll responded that the definition for “damage-causing animals” did not provide any preventative methods. The definition would be reviewed and redefined, but, from a conservationist perspective, there must be proof that damage occurred and was caused by the animal. Therefore authorities had to assess and evaluate the damage caused. It was the provincial conservationist experts who issued permits. There was a need for farmers to take more proactive preventative methods when it came to damage-causing animals; therefore, at times there might be conflict when farmers needed a permit. It had been proven that farmers who lived closer to wild animals had a higher risk of damages. She had no response on the “barbaric” and “cruel” ways in which animals killed their prey but felt that the use of traps had to be more indiscriminate. The DEA was aware of compensation and the issue had been addressed. The Department was working on community workshops with various communities on compensation strategies like replacing livestock or financial compensation.

Ms Carroll agreed about the balance but the challenge was how to achieve that balance and how to reach an agreement. Micro chipping was not a bad idea and could help in tracking and monitoring animals. The Department did not elaborate on what kind of incentives would be implemented and did not have sufficient information yet. The first criteria was how funding would be secured and what would be considered as losses. The Department would have wanted to work with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in the implementation and funding of the norms and standards.

Mr Du Toit stated it was difficult to support the legislation if the outcome was unknown or if its purpose was unclear. He argued that there should not be “specific individuals” but “specific species,” because it would be difficult to prove when a “specific individual” caused damage. He asked how long it would take to get a permit if the permit was refused, and asked if the Department had enough time, people and resources to investigate and assess damages. He was confused on how compensation would take place and asked what caused damaging-causing animals to explode in numbers, and how the legislation would help. He asked if the Department was shying away from the killing methods and emphasised the imbalance caused by the explosion of animals.  He asked how flocks would be saved in the meantime.

Bishop Tolo said there were stock controllers in the apartheid years patrolling rural areas and issuing fines for neglected animals. He currently had knowledge about the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and asked what happened to the stock controllers after 1994.

Ms C Mabuza (ANC) said that farmers were suffering while the Government was discussing legislation. She did not understand why the Department was taking so long with preventative methods. Communities in the rural areas did not know about legislation and used every method possible to protect their livestock and crops. The numbers of damaging-causing animals should be reduced and she noted that there was no legislation in place to control increasing numbers of animals.

The Chairperson asked what norms and standards meant for commercial and subsistence farmers. He asked if the legislation would impose a heavy burden on farmers in terms of administration and implementation. He understood that there were many issues at stake, but asked how best the country could mitigate damage and protect food security and biodiversity.

Ms Carroll responded that the current legislation was partly to blame for the problem. The more damaging-causing animals were killed, the more they reproduced and increased in numbers, and there were currently no actions prohibiting farmers from killing black-backed jackals.  The Department was not shying away from killing animals but solutions had to be found on how to strike a balance. The Department hoped to be finished with the legislation before the end of 2011. The document applied to everyone and the Department wished to be more involved with communities. The Department understood that food security was an issue and requested finding a solution with other stakeholders, because the Department was also responsible for the Animals Protection Act. The Department was therefore hoping to draw some resources from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in its implementation.  The trained persons would help and provide services to the Department. The legislation still needed to stipulate the response time to attend to carcasses.

Mr Ramsay stated that the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries would look at fencing to control predators. He proposed for the system of stock inspectors to be re-established as primary animal health care. The hunting and eco-tourism of damaging-causing animals could be beneficial for communities affected by those animals.

The Chairperson expected comments from the Department of Agriculture to guide the way forward.

Ms N Twala (ANC) did not understand how the provinces had their own legislation without a national framework on norms and standards for the management of damage-causing animals, and asked why this issue was not previously addressed. She was wondering if the Department had the personnel to provide the services and thought that it would be wise to have a joint meeting with all provinces.

Mr S Abram (ANC) said that farmers' cattle were sometimes affected and had to be killed because of sick wild animals. His priority was food security but cautioned the Committee against over-regulation. It was good to have laws but he asked if the means existed to implement the laws. The implementation of compensation was always a problem and most people found it difficult to get assistance. Game farmers were not contributing to the mainstream issues of the country.

The Chairperson noted that Ms Carroll said that the legislation would be finalised before the end of 2011. His concerns were around implementation and issues regarding damages caused by predators to livestock. He asked who was at the receiving end.

Bishop Tolo said that people who killed rhinos should get life sentences. He asked how many rhinos were killed, how many remained, and how many arrests were made.

The Chairperson asked for the processes that still needed to take place in finalising the norms and standards before the end of the 2011.

Ms Carroll noted that there was a lack of uniformed provincial legislation and no national framework. The provincial environmental department had the right to make and implement legislation. The DEA came up with this document because of the lack of a national approach and the document had been severely criticised. The Department could not say at this stage if there were enough people to implement the policy. The Portfolio Committee could assist in securing funding and the Department intended to involve farmers and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Compliance was of crucial importance and various stakeholders needed to be on board. The national Department made the legislation but it had to be implemented by the provinces. There was 333 rhinos poached by the end of 2010 and there were at least 20 000 rhinos left. Most cases were reported in the Kruger National Park, Limpopo and the North West. In 2010 there had been 162 arrests. The Department had established various anti-poaching units. It still had to consider the submitted comments, and the document needed to be amended. Meetings with various stakeholders needed to take place followed by a briefing to the Portfolio Committee before the document could be submitted to the Minister for signature.

The Chairperson asked what would be done in the meantime.

Ms Carroll said that the status quo had to remain and provincial requirements had to be adhered to. The Department was still addressing community concerns and many concerns were raised regarding the use of soft traps.

Mr Ramsay said that all traps had to be tested first, but fencing and other proactive methods had to be used in the meantime to prevent the loss of livestock.

The meeting was adjourned.